Sunday, February 27, 2011

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Donen. 1954)

“Let me tell you something, no woman is gonna go to bear country with you to cook and wash and slave for seven slumachy back woodsmen.”

It did not take long for me to hit one of the staples of film, the MGM musical. The 1077 Films to See Before You Die is filled with classic American musicals, but none of them (outside of Singin’ in the Ran) could even come close to the love I have for the next film I watched. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of the all-time heralded musical films in history.

Directed by Stanley Donen, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of the sweetest, kindhearted and entertaining films I have ever seen, The music is incredibly catchy and the dance sequences are out if this world. With that being said, the film has a plot line that would seriously offend my Gender Communications teacher…..

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers follows the story of an 1850 Oregon backwoodsman named Adam, played by Howard Keel, and his wanting to find a wife. He very easily convinces the lovely Milly, played by Jane Powell, to marry him, and they head off to the backwoods where she learns of his six unruly and unkempt brothers. Adam treats his wife like a maid for the first few nights, but Milly is tough. Not only does she tame Adam, but she also teaches the brothers how to successfully pick up women. After a few lessons in courtin’, the backwater brothers ride into town with the intent of finding some wives.

So, this all sounds like a fluffy and fun musical. But after the brothers’ plans are thwarted by the local men in town, they decide to take matters into their own hands. They kidnap the ladies that they had eyes for and hold them hostage at their farm for the entire winter. This is where the whole thing gets ridiculous. Are we really supposed to believe that, after being held hostage for months, these young women would actually marry the brothers? No way, but I guess things have changed since 1850. The women swoon and eye the farming brothers which eventually leads to, with the help of spring, them all falling in love.

So yeah, the whole plot just screams Stockholm syndrome, but if you look past the obviously chauvinistic premise you will find yourself swept away in the awesome music. Howard Keel delivers smooth and masculine bass vocals that are perfectly complimented by Jane Powell’s soprano. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers features my favorite musical catalog of all the classic MGM’s. From the opening scene when Keel sings “Bless Your Beautiful Hide" you cannot help but be wrapped up in the warmth of the entire picture.

The most famous moment in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is the iconic barn dance. Five of Adam’s six brothers were played by very experienced professional dancers, and they put on a show in one of the most eye-pleasing dance sequences of the 1950’s. They combine styles like square, ballet, ballroom, gymnastics and tap for seven minutes of dancer heaven. I ended up watching the scene four times before completing the film. It was that impressive.

While working through the 1077 Films to See Before You Die, I will encounter a ton of musicals. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers has set the bar exceptionally high. If you are a fan of golden age musicals, I very much encourage you to seek out this 1954 Academy Award nominated masterpiece. The streak of positive reviews continues with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. It’s a must see.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: B

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